Scientists with the ScanPyramids project claim to have discovered a large void inside the Great Pyramid of Giza using cosmic cameras that use high-energy particles, called muons, to see through stone.
The results were published in Nature, an international science journal, on November 2. The finding opens up new possibilities for detailed exploration of archaeological sites without using invasive methods like drilling.
The Great Pyramid of Giza is believed to have been constructed over a 20-year period from 2509 to 2483 BC. The pyramid, built as a tomb for the pharaoh Khufu, is classified as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The team of researchers with the ScanPyramids project took several images of the pyramid’s internal structure using a non-invasive technique involving muons – by-products of cosmic rays that can go through hundreds of meters of stone before they are partially absorbed or their decay starts.
The Nature study notes that the cosmic-ray muon radiography allowed the researchers to visualize previously unknown inner structures inside the pyramid including the large void above the Grand Gallery, a corridor that connects several inner chambers. The void, named after the project as the ScanPyramids Big Void, is located above the Queen’s Chamber in the pyramid. The void is more than 30 metres in length and a cross-sectional image shows that it is similar in shape to the Queen’s Chamber.
Three different muon-detection technologies and independent analyses were used to visualize the void. First, the team explored the void using nuclear emulsion films installed in the Queen’s chamber. The second method involved use of scintillator hodoscopes, and, finally, the void was studied using gas detectors from outside the pyramid.
The Nature study claims that the void is the first major inner structure found inside the pyramid since the 19th century and marks a breakthrough for a better understanding of the archaeological site’s inner structure.
However, the announcement of the discovery has been criticized by Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities that also oversees the ScanPyramids project. In a statement released on social media, the ministry has said that it had been aware of the existence of such voids inside the pyramid. “The ScanPyramid team should not have rushed to publish the findings in the media at this stage of their investigation because it requires more research and evaluation by scientists from across the globe,” the statement added.